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Five questions facing the Yankees this offseason

The Yankees' Derek Jeter leaves the field after

The Yankees' Derek Jeter leaves the field after his last career game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sept. 28, 2014 in Boston. Credit: Getty Images / Al Bello

Who replaces Jeter?

The Yankees have Brendan Ryan under contract for another year but it's highly unlikely they turn the position over to the light-hitting veteran. The same goes for one of the club's own free agents, Stephen Drew. With no internal options, the Yankees will look at the free-agent market, with J.J. Hardy of the Orioles and the Nationals' Asdrubal Cabrera, players the team has liked before. They could be scared off, however, by Hardy's age (32) and some back issues down the stretch that contributed to him hitting .164 with no homers and two RBIs in 17 games in September. Cabrera's star has also faded the last couple of seasons. A trade (Alexei Ramirez? Didi Gregorius? Alcides Escobar?) certainly cannot be ruled out.

 

How much can the Yankees depend on A-Rod?

Alex Rodriguez officially comes off the suspended list after the World Series but he already is a focal point of the Yankees' offseason and for good reason. There's the soap opera element, naturally, but a baseball one, too. The Yankees don't have many good third-base options. They will have an interest in retaining free-agent Chase Headley as an insurance policy, but he may want to sign with a team that can give him more assurances regarding playing time. If A-Rod gets to spring training in good shape and good health, he will be given every chance to assume his old position. But given the 39-year-old's injury-riddled past -- he had DL stints each season from 2008-13 -- there's little chance the Yankees enter the spring without a backup plan.

 

What will the back end of the bullpen look like?

The Yankees had one of the best eighth-ninth inning combinations in the sport in 2014 with Dellin Betances and David Robertson. But Robertson, 39-for-44 in saves, is a free agent and has been clear there will be no hometown bargain. The Red Sox and Tigers are two teams that could be in the market for closers and both aren't shy about spending. With all the holes the Yankees have to fill, the club could find Robertson's price prohibitive. Additionally, though Betances' 6-8 frame has some scouts doubting his long-term prospects, his devastating fastball/curveball arsenal made him an instant fan favorite. The Yankees know the PR blowback would be minimal if Robertson gets a big offer elsewhere and they don't match, choosing to go with Betances instead.

 

How healthy will the rotation be?

CC Sabathia was able to avoid the dreaded microfracture surgery on his right knee over the summer, instead undergoing a far less invasive "cleanup" procedure. But the 34-year-old has almost no cartilage under his kneecap and he has been told by doctors the knee will never again be 100 percent. General manager Brian Cashman has admitted he has no idea what to expect from Sabathia next season. The news seems more optimistic regarding Masahiro Tanaka, who made two starts after coming off the DL, looking for now as if he'll be able to avoid Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Michael Pineda looked like an ace down the stretch but the 25-year-old's injury history makes him suspect until he gets through an entire season.

 

How can the Yankees get younger?

Joe Girardi said Monday that next season, "I think we'll be younger and I think guys will be healthier." It is natural to be cynical regarding the latter given how injuries have ravaged the Yankees the past two seasons, and the former lends itself to cynicism, as well. Offensive success next season again will depend on veterans such as Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury. And other than pitching prospect Luis Severino, there doesn't seem to be much in the farm system that seems to be on the cusp of contributing to the big-league club.

New York Sports